Business News/ News / World/  Seattle becomes first US city to ban caste discrimination

Seattle has become the first city in the United States to ban discrimination based on caste, following a city council vote on Tuesday.

"It's official: our movement has won a historic, first-in-the-nation ban on caste discrimination in Seattle!" tweeted Indian American council member Kshama Sawant, who introduced the legislation.

"Now we need to build a movement to spread this victory around the country."

The city council of Seattle, in the northwest state of Washington, voted 6-1 in favor of the ban, which applies to employment, housing, public transport and retail establishments.

India's Hindu caste system, which dates back thousands of years, divides society into a rigid hereditary hierarchy based on a belief in so-called upper-caste purity, with Dalits on the lowest rung facing discrimination and even violence.

Activists say caste-based discrimination has followed the South Asian diaspora to the United States.

"Caste discrimination doesn't only take place in other countries. It is faced by South Asian American and other immigrant working people in their workplaces, including in the tech sector, in Seattle and in cities around the country," said Sawant, when her office introduced the legislation in January.

"With over 167,000 people from South Asia living in Washington, largely concentrated in the Greater Seattle area, the region must address caste discrimination, and not allow it to remain invisible and unaddressed," she said.

In California's Silicon Valley, tech giant Cisco is facing a caste discrimination lawsuit brought by a former worker, who alleged bias against him due to his low caste status.

Dalit rights groups have lauded the ban.

"Love has won over hate as Seattle has become the first in the nation to ban caste discrimination," tweeted Thenmozhi Soundararajan, director of Dalit rights group Equality Labs.

"We have braved rape threats, death threats, disinformation, and bigotry."

The Hindu American Foundation, however, voiced opposition to Seattle's move to outlaw caste discrimination, arguing it singles out the South Asian community.

The foundation "has maintained that caste discrimination is wrong... At the same time, we maintain that the singling out of South Asians and addition of 'caste' to non-discrimination policy violates the very policies it now amends," co-founder Suhag Shukla said.

"Seattle has voted to treat South Asians in a manner that no other ethnic or racial community is treated under the guise of non-discrimination."


This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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Updated: 22 Feb 2023, 03:16 PM IST
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